Morgan and Marvin Smith
"During the 1930s, '40s, and '50s, Harlem spread itself before the cameras of Morgan and Marvin Smith like a great tablecloth, and eagerly they went about devouring what it had to offer."
-Gordon Parks Sr.
|Shortly after Morgan and Marvin Smith arrived in Harlem, they
found work with the Works Progress Administration (WPA)
performing manual labor. After settling in Harlem, the brothers began taking
art lessons from Augusta Savage at her studio on
126th Street. It was through Ms. Savage that the twins came in contact with
other prominent artists and began to connect themselves to the famed "306
Group." The talents of Morgan and Marvin Smith were first noticed by
the public in 1937 when Morgan won an award for his photograph of a young
boy playing hi-li. Robert Day, the young boy in the photograph, soon became
the subject of other works produced by the Smith brothers. After 1937, Morgan
and Marvin Smith decided to focus their photographic efforts on life in
the Harlem community. Unlike many photographers of the time, the twins refused
to document the misfortune that existed in Harlem during the 1930s. Instead,
they turned their attention to the positive aspects of Harlem and its people.
In 1950, Marvin Smith left Harlem so that he could study under Romare Bearden in Paris. While in Paris, Marvin developed his skills in abstract painting and had the opportunity to meet and work with Pablo Picasso. During Marvin's stay in Paris, Morgan became interested in film and eventually became a sound technician for ABC. When Marvin returned from France in 1952, Morgan taught him about the film industry and Marvin became a sound technician for NBC. Once the Smith brothers began work in the film industry, they concentrated less on their photography. In 1968, Morgan and Marvin Smith closed their Harlem photography studio at 141 West 125th Street.
||Morgan and Marvin Smith continued to work in the arts until their retirement in 1975. On February 17, 1993, Morgan Smith died at the age of 83. Today, Marvin Smith resides in Harlem where he continues to express his love for art by knitting Kinte clothes. The Smith brothers were successful in every area of their artistic careers, but they will always be known for their artistic rendering of photographic Harlem.|